A military court in Myanmar has convicted Aung San Suu Kyi on five counts of corruption, handing down the last verdicts against the deposed leader in a protracted legal vendetta that human rights groups have denounced as a farce.
The former leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate was found guilty on Friday of charges relating to the purchase and maintenance of a helicopter, according to a person with knowledge of the closed-door trial. The court ruled that Aung San Suu Kyi will serve three-year sentences in four of the cases concurrently and one consecutively, the person added, meaning she was sentenced to seven years in prison.
Aung San Suu Kyi, who from 2016 to 2021 served as Myanmar’s state counsellor, an office equivalent to prime minister, has already been sentenced to at least 26 years in prison on offences ranging from breaching the state secrets law to illegally importing and possessing walkie-talkies. The latest convictions bring the 77-year-old’s total sentence to 33 years in prison.
Myanmar’s constitution prohibits anyone imprisoned after being convicted of a crime from holding office.
“The Myanmar junta’s farcical, totally unjust parade of charges and convictions against Aung San Suu Kyi amount to politically motivated punishment designed to hold her behind bars for the rest of her life,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Due process and a free and fair trial were never remotely possible under the circumstances.”
The military junta ordered the arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi and hundreds of other ruling officials in February 2021 after making unbacked allegations of electoral fraud in the 2020 election that returned her National League for Democracy party to a second term in office. The regime has piled numerous criminal cases on the former leader and given her only limited access to her lawyers, who have been barred from speaking to the press.
“Aung San Suu Kyi should never have been in prison,” Bo Kyi, joint secretary of the Assistance Association of Political Prisoners (Burma), a human rights group, told the Financial Times. “The military junta arrested her as part of its illegal coup [and] the trial was a show court, just like thousands of political prisoners.”
“The release of all political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi, is an immediate need for Burma,” he added, using the country’s former name.
Aung San Suu Kyi is being held in a concrete-block hut on a jungle clearing at a prison camp in Naypyidaw, according to Sean Turnell, an Australian academic and her former economic adviser, who was convicted alongside her in the “official secrets” case.
Authorities have erected mobile phone blocking towers around the site, including a cluster around her hut, according to Turnell, who was released by the regime last month.
Myanmar’s military regime remains diplomatically isolated nearly two years after the coup. The UN Security Council this month adopted a UK-drafted resolution condemning human rights violations since the coup. China and Russia, the junta’s two biggest arms suppliers, abstained, along with India.
The resolution called for Myanmar to release “all arbitrarily detained prisoners” and for an immediate end to violence. The UN’s credentials committee also recently chose to maintain recognition of Kyaw Moe Tun, Myanmar’s UN ambassador who broke with the junta after the coup.
The military regime has faced widespread resistance from armed groups. According to the AAPP, more than 16,000 people have been arrested and more than 2,600 killed since the military seized power.